In the National Book Critics Circle prepares to celebrate nearly forty years of the best work selected by the critics themselves, and also to launch the new John Leonard award for first book.
Metafiction in 'The Things They Carried. Studies in Contemporary Fiction, June,pp ff. Tim O'Brien's most recent book, The Things They Carried, begins with a litany of items that the soldiers "hump" in the Vietnam War - assorted weapons, dog tags, flak jackets, ear plugs, cigarettes, insect repellent, letters, can openers, C-rations, jungle boots, maps, medical supplies, and explosives as well as memories, reputations, and personal histories.
In addition, the reader soon learns, the soldiers also carry stories: One man came back. He died before he could tell us what happened,' " 6 - many are in their own way as enigmatic. The tales included in O'Brien's twenty-two chapters range from several lines to many pages and demonstrate well the impossibility of knowing the reality of the war in absolute terms.
Sometimes stories are abandoned, only to be continued pages or chapters later. At other times, the narrator begins to tell a story, only to have another character finish the tale. Still other stories are told as if true accounts, only for their validity to be immediately questioned or denied.
O'Brien draws the reader into the text, calling the reader's attention to the process of invention and challenging him to determine which, if any, of the stories are true. As a result, the stories become epistemological tools, multidimensional windows through which the war, the world, and the ways of telling a war story can be viewed from many different angles and visions.
The epistemological ambivalence of the stories in The Things They Carried is reinforced by the book's ambiguity of style and structure. What exactly is The Things They Carried in terms of technique? Many reviewers refer to the work as a series of short stories, but it is much more than that.
The Things They Carried is a combat novel, yet it is not a combat novel. It is also a blend of traditional and untraditional forms - a collection, Gene Lyons says, of "short stories, essays, anecdotes, narrative fragments, jokes, fables, biographical and autobiographical sketches, and philosophical asides" It has been called both "a unified narrative with chapters that stand perfectly on their own" Coffey 60 and a series of "22 discontinuous sections" Bawer A Also ambiguous is the issue of how much of the book is autobiography.
The relationship between fiction and reality arises early in the text when the reader learns the first of many parallels that emerge as the book progresses: Both the real and the fictional Tim O'Brien are in their forties and are natives of Minnesota, writers who graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Macalester College, served as grunts in Vietnam after having been drafted at age twenty-one, attended graduate school at Harvard University, and wrote books entitled If I Die in a Combat Zone and Going After Cacciato.
Other events of the protagonist's life are apparently invention.
Unlike the real Tim O'Brien, the protagonist has a nine-year-old daughter named Kathleen and makes a return journey to Vietnam years after the war is over. Clearly O'Brien resists a simplistic classification of his latest work. In both the preface to the book and in an interview with Elizabeth Mehren, he terms The Things They Carried "'fiction.
It's part nonfiction, too," he insists 7. And, as Naparsteck points out, the work "resists easy categorization: As O'Brien's extensive focus on storytelling indicates, The Things They Carried is also a work of contemporary metafiction, what Robert Scholes first termed fabulation or "ethically controlled fantasy" 3.
According to Patricia Waugh, Metafiction is a term given to fictional writing which self-consciously and systematically draws attention to its status as an artefact in order to pose questions about the relationship between fiction and reality.
In providing a critique of their own methods of construction, such writings not only examine the fundamental structures of narrative fiction, they also explore the possible fictionality of the world outside the literary fictional text.
By examining imagination and memory, two main components that O'Brien feels are important to a writer of fiction Schroederand by providing so many layers of technique in one work, O'Brien delves into the origins of fictional creation.
In focusing so extensively on what a war story is or is not, O'Brien writes a war story as he examines the process of writing one. To echo what Philip Beidler has stated about Going After Cacciato, "the form" of The Things They Carried thus becomes "its content" ; the medium becomes the message.
The "rehappening" takes the form of a number of types of stories: We learn of Ted Lavender, who is "zapped while zipping" 17 after urinating, of the paranoid friendship of Dave Jensen and Lee Strunk, of the revenge plot against Bobby Jorgenson, an unskilled medic who almost accidentally kills the narrator, of the moral confusion of the protagonist who fishes on the Rainy River and dreams of desertion to Canada, and Mary Ann Bell, Mark Fossie's blue-eyed, blonde, seventeen- year-old girlfriend, who is chillingly attracted to life in a combat zone.
Some stories only indirectly reflect the process of writing; other selections include obvious metafictional devices.Michele Friedlander's essay explicates the metafictional elements in Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried.
This essay was the winner of the East Carolina University English department's Paul Farr Memorial Essay Contest.
One of the first questions people ask about The Things They Carried is this: Is it a novel, or a collection of short stories? The title page refers to the book simply as "a work of fiction," defying the conscientious reader's need to categorize this masterpiece.
Reflections on "The Things They Carried" Analyzing the storys craftsmanship Tim OBrien wrote a story that is known as "The Things They Carried." It is a carefully crafted, detailed account of a Lieutenant and his men, the time period being right in the middle of the Vietnam war.
Thus, the central argument in this context revolves around the literary devices that were adopted by Tim O’Brien to make the reading of this text, a worthwhile experience. The name of this story symbolizes the many things that soldiers who went to fight in the Vietnam War carried.
Download-Theses Mercredi 10 juin "With The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien adds his second title to impossible to summarize in conventional terms. If anything, it is a better book The novel is held together by two things: the haunting clarity of O'Brien again shows his literary stuff An acutely.